A new study finds exposure to environmental tobacco smoke linked to an increased risk of future blood vessel hardening and greater risks of other heart disease factors among 13-year-olds.
The research has been published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes, a journal of the American Heart Association.
The study of 494 children showed that those with higher levels of exposure to secondhand smoke from ages 8 to 13 had, by age 13, significantly increased blood vessel wall thickness and functioning problems, both of which are precursors to arterial structural changes and hardening.
Greater exposure to tobacco smoke also was associated with higher levels of apolipoprotein B (apoB), a component of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or "bad" cholesterol and another indicator of heart disease risk.
Study participants were recruited as infants into Finland's ongoing prospective randomized Special Turku Coronary Risk Factor Intervention Project (STRIP), which began in 1990 and is aimed at lowering children's risks of heart disease by controlling their exposure to known environmental dangers.
"Although previous research has found that passive smoke may be harmful for blood vessels among adults, we did not know until this study that these specific effects also happen among children and adolescents," said Katariina Kallio, M.D., Ph.D., lead author of the study and research fellow at the Research Centre of Applied and Preventive Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Turku in Turku, Finland.